The first days in Australia: Serpentine Falls

Serpentine Falls, Western Australia
Serpentine Falls. Picture courtesy of Amanda http://applesandgreen.com

To begin with, it felt like a dream.

My first days in Australia were spent in a suburb in Perth’s hills, a place called Karragullen. The area is almost completely unnoticed and quiet, with a large oval just a few steps away from the house — where at night the kangaroos all come out to graze on the grass.

Standing on the oval as the sun was setting on my first night in Australia, it was hard to identify what felt more real — the people and places I had left behind in the English winter just the day before, or this warm Australia night filled with stars.

My first full day in Australia, we packed a picnic and our swimming gear, picked up some friends at Armadale train station, and all went to Serpentine National Park. The feeling of everything being not-quite-real didn’t subside with the picnic spot at Serpentine, where tame kangaroos were hopping around and begging for food. The signs warning people not to feed the ‘roos were for a good reason: they can get aggressive if you don’t feed them, as some other picnicers were finding out with one of the animals refusing to leave them alone and acting shows of dominance.

After our lunch the four of us set off uphill on a walking trail, billed as only moderate difficulty — but we hadn’t bargained on the day being as hot as it was. This was my second time walking in the Australian bush, and like the first time I quickly realised that I didn’t have what I needed to do even a moderately gentle hike properly was walking boots (especially important for me, with my feet) and a platypus for water. Carrying a large, solid plastic water bottle was too bulky and too heavy for this — even though having plenty of water is about the most important thing you can carry.

The highlight of Serpentine National Park was the Serpentine Falls, a small waterfall over a sheer granite rock face. While the waterfall itself wasn’t much to look at, the volume of water over the falls being much smaller in the summer, the fresh water pool below the falls was welcome — and very cold, especially in the deepest parts — on a hot day.

Serpentine Falls was my first experience of wild swimming in Australia — a world of difference from swimming in Highgate Ponds in London, particularly because you don’t come out muddy and smelling of pond water!

 

The Australian adventure begins

the Australian adventure beginsI left London on a typically cold and rainy day in February, one week ago today. It’s surprising how when you’re moving to another country you can fit all the clothes you own into just a few bags — once you have decided to throw out all of those items that don’t fit, admitting that they probably won’t fit again any time soon.

Flying long-haul in Economy Class can be tough, but I recommend paying the small extra surplus on Singapore Airlines for a seat in the emergency exit row. OK, so you don’t get a window — which is usually my favourite place to sit — but it is more than made up for by the fact that you can stretch your legs so far, and that you can just stand up by your seat if you so desire. The only drawback is that because there is so much space in front of you some people may choose to stand in front of your seat while they wait to use the bathroom.

We descended into Singapore’s Changi airport, after nearly 13 hours in the air, just as the sun was rising. From the plane window behind me I saw dots of light below become boats, and I wondered what lives the people on board were leading, and what they were thinking and feeling at the start of their day on Tuesday.

My stop in Singapore was only two hours — and from bad experiences in the past in airports trying to clear customs and find boarding gates, I wouldn’t want any less than that. Soon, I was in the air again — and with my cherished window seat.

From the air, I was struck by the colours of Australia. The land was mostly brown or gold, and the trees were a very dark green. Occasionally, the land took an alien look around mine sites. It took me a short while to realise that where the land was golden coloured or brown this wasn’t abnormal: this was Australia, in the summer.

Clearing customs and immigration was surprisingly easy: I printed the details of my visa and my visa grant notice, in case they were needed, but since my visa was entirely electronic I wasn’t even asked about it.

And then there I was (after a quick stop in the airport duty free shop): a permanent resident in Australia.